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Lotus

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"Willow”

Willow jerked awake, head jumping up from its resting place on the inside of her arm, elbow crooked beneath her head on the table. Willow’s eyes were unfocused and panicky, her chest rose and fell rapidly as she panted, still hearing echoing screams from the chasms of her dreams.

Sliding into the chair next to her at a table and room not unlike the research area at the Magic Box, Ms. Hartness slowly began rubbing Willow’s back. She had gotten used to waking Willow with a soft hand. But no matter how gently she was woken, Willow always woke with a start. There would be several flustered moments before awareness would settle and Willow would realize where she was.

"Willow, you've been asleep for hours. Aren't you the least bit sore on that table, dear?" Ms. Hartness posed quietly in a sweet Welsh tongue, her arm making tender circles on the middle of Willow's back.

Taking several slow deep breaths to settle herself, Willow blinked and turned her head.

"Why do you keep doing that?" she asked softly, a slight frown on her face and a crinkle between her brows.

"Do what, dear. It's nothing that I haven't done dozens of times now."

Sure in her convictions, Willow knew, more than anything, the kindness this woman was showing her was wrong. A murderer like her didn't deserve being woken tenderly. A torturer like her wasn't entitled to warm biscuits and jam in the morning. Malicious and destructive villains like her don't warrant clemency. The Big Bad doesn't get a break. It went against every Scooby bone in Willow's body. And she knew it.

"I don't deserve this. Any of this."

Before she let herself soften and melt in tears of Tara and sobs of 'sorries', Willow pushed her chair back and stood. Looking to the floor, she hid her eyes. Taking a few small steps, she turned and let out a quiet "Please excuse me," before closing the door to her room behind her.

Ms. Hartness sighed and turned to look as the latch to the door slid quietly into place with a small click.

"No, Willow," she said sadly, shaking her head. "You don't."